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Don't ask, Don't tell - for Senior Citizens

Updated on August 14, 2016
Austinstar profile image

L. Cargill, B.A., Sam Houston University, Huntsville, TX., has been writing cool and interesting articles for the internet world since 1995.

Age is what you make it.

How did I get to be so "old"? Me at 57 years old.
How did I get to be so "old"? Me at 57 years old. | Source

How old is old?

Surprisingly, American Social Security equates people aged 55 or older as "aged". That may have been back in the days when the average life expectancy was somewhere around 65 or so. Today, the calculator for Social Security says that a man reaching the age of 65 can expect to live another 20 years. A woman can expect to live another 22 years after reaching age 65.

Today's Seniors are living longer and better lives. Modern medicine has helped the 'elderly' to continue to live long past retirement age with more mobility and quality. Therefore, in any social situation, there are new rules for conversations with citizens who have "grown up".

Mother and son on a weekend road trip. Which one looks old?
Mother and son on a weekend road trip. Which one looks old? | Source

Socially unacceptable questions or conversations for people over 50:

If you can read this hub, you should know by now that one would never ask a plump or obese woman if they are pregnant. How rude! Now, let's learn some socially crude things to ask or say to anyone over 50 years of age.

  • "You look good for your age!" - Good grief, what constitutes looking BAD - for your age? Why not stick to simply saying, "You look nice". Age really has nothing to do with looking good or bad.
  • "Why don't you act your age?" - A lot of children ask this of their parents. Even parents ask this of their children. As no one has definitively determined exactly what constitutes 'acting your age' truly means, it's ok to act 'young' or act 'old' if that is how you feel. The numbers on the calendar have very little to do with your personality.
  • "You look tired, are you feeling well?" - This question is appropriate, perhaps, if you want the whole life history of someone. It's just one of those questions that people ask without truly wanting to know the answer. That makes it kind of socially awkward to ask in the first place. An older person might decide to take offense, or they might decide to sit you down for an hour and explain every ache and pain.
  • Calling someone by their first name without permission - A lot of people do this. They think it is perfectly all right to call a senior citizen casually by their first name, even if they have just met. If the person is close to your own age, it might work, but be polite and ask if it's OK to call them by a given name or nickname. Show some respect.
  • "You shouldn't wear makeup, clothes, shoes or perfume made for younger people." - What should they wear? Who are you, the fashion police? Why would you say these things? If you are footing the bill for the person's clothing, etcetera, then you get to choose, but you can't make someone wear (or not wear) something they are not comfortable wearing.
  • "You're getting grey hair, thinning hair or a balding scalp." - What's it to you? We know we're not hair models and we're not trying to be. Genetic codes determine hair condition. We have no control over it. If you want to suggest a product, then give it as a gift or something. Don't just blurt out negative comments.
  • "Are these your grandchildren?" - Maybe, maybe not. Lot's of people opt to have babies at a later age. I'm sure ask David Letterman if his nine year old son is his grandchild. If you are not sure, don't assume that young children are the offspring of offspring. Old people may have perfectly functioning reproductive systems.
  • "You are too old/overqualified for this job." - Seriously? If they didn't want or need a job, they wouldn't bother to apply to your low class company. Retired people need to supplement their income from time to time. Why don't you accept the fact that they find your company worthy of their talent?
  • "Do you need help with the internet or your computer?" - Well, hello, you just assume that old people do not know how to keep up with technology? If an elderly person wants help, they ask for it. Sometimes learning new things will exercise their brains. Ok, this one isn't so bad. But remember, it's not just old people that don't understand new stuff. Everyone has to learn things.
  • "How about getting some plastic surgery for those saggy skin areas?" - This is just another way of saying, "you look old". Why don't you get some lessons in manners? Take your older friends out for a spa day, you need it too.
  • "You look just like my mom/dad!" - Oh, gee thanks. I've always wanted someone to tell me that. I suppose it would be worse if you said, "You look just like my grandma/grandpa!"
  • (at a retail establishment) "Did you want me to calculate your senior discount?" - Hell yea! I always want my senior discount, you don't need to ask. If you think I look like I qualify, go ahead and give it to me. Just don't say it out loud in front of my friends.

Chief Old Person!

Some cultures truly respect old people!
Some cultures truly respect old people! | Source

What age group is reading this hub?

Please indicate which age group you are in:

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Conversing with the elderly...

Treat everyone with respect and kindness! It doesn't matter if the person is young or old. They are human beings first. Slotting people into groups is just another way to judge people.

The old and elderly have many things to offer. They have accrued some experience on their journey. Don't brush off a walking encyclopedia of knowledge. Learn from everyone you meet.

Simple manners are all you need in any social situation. That's it! That's the secret.

The best words to sprinkle generously throughout any conversation are:

  • please
  • thank you
  • excuse me

Opening doors for people is still considered courteous, no matter what the age.

The golden rule is the best rule of thumb in any situation - Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

If you want people to be nice to you, then be nice to them.

Are Your Parents Getting On in Years?

© 2013 Lela

Comments

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  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR

    Lela 

    3 years ago from Somewhere near the center of Texas

    jonny - Realizing our mortality is tough. Really tough. And it's like no one wants to be around you and they don't know how to talk to you. Values are different. It all changes.

    @peach - yes! everyone loves encouraging words!

  • peachpurple profile image

    peachy 

    3 years ago from Home Sweet Home

    my dad is age 70, he likes when i say his skin is getting better , he looks healthier, although these aren't true. Old folks love to hear nice encouraging words

  • jonnycomelately profile image

    Alan 

    3 years ago from Tasmania

    One effect of aging, that I had not expected, is finding that all those peers who were kids when I was a kid, and who could have joined in the usual conversation, " Do you remember when.....?" "....when we were about 4 years old, and Dad came in and told us about......?" No one to share this with now. No one who remembers. They are all dead. It's a profound realisation.

  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR

    Lela 

    3 years ago from Somewhere near the center of Texas

    Hi Elsie - I read your hub on ageing too. I didn't comment because it was already said. But I agree. It's hard. Everyone tells me I look very young for my age, but I feel every one of my 60+ years. My sister is now 70 and she may have a terminal illness. Our parents are dead. Old age is affecting us all.

  • Elsie Hagley profile image

    Elsie Hagley 

    3 years ago from New Zealand

    Beautiful article and so true, I agree with all. I was brought up with this quote" If you can't say something nice, well don't bother to say it at all".

    I look at it this way if what you are going to say would hurt your feelings, well it would most likely hurt some one elses also, so forget those thought's in your head and move on.

  • jonnycomelately profile image

    Alan 

    4 years ago from Tasmania

    Beautifully written, thank you.

    One thing I sometimes say to you guys: "You are a young old man. I am an old young man - we are both Men, ok?"

  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR

    Lela 

    4 years ago from Somewhere near the center of Texas

    @jill of alltrades - It is challenging and difficult at times, but like here, the community of writers is good once you find your niche.

  • jill of alltrades profile image

    jill of alltrades 

    4 years ago from Philippines

    Oh, I have heard of Bubblews but have not tried it yet. Is it fun like HP?

  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR

    Lela 

    4 years ago from Somewhere near the center of Texas

    Hi Jil of Alltrades! I still answer comments and read a few hubs from time to time, but mostly I am active on Bubblews now. Are you writing over there?

  • jill of alltrades profile image

    jill of alltrades 

    4 years ago from Philippines

    Hi Lela, I enjoyed reading this especially since I not only belong to the age group but also because I have also been doing volunteer work with this group as well as with children too. Great points you have raised here! Rated up and useful!

    Have not been active in HP for a while so I decided to look up some old friends and catch up with what you have been doing. I can see you are still active as ever. I hope to be active again and have published a new hub (after a year!).

  • Rod Marsden profile image

    Rod Marsden 

    4 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

    I'm working on it.

  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR

    Lela 

    4 years ago from Somewhere near the center of Texas

    Why can you not? My motto became, "Just do it". It works.

  • Rod Marsden profile image

    Rod Marsden 

    4 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

    Sounds like you've developed a great life style. Wish I could do the same.

  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR

    Lela 

    4 years ago from Somewhere near the center of Texas

    I hear you loud and clear, Rod. I was ready to retire at 40 when I first developed diabetes. But the powers that be said, oh, no, you can keep working until you are 65 for sure. I made it to 59, but so many other health problems kept coming up. I was literally working myself to death. I like working for myself now. I don't have as much, but I don't need as much.

  • Rod Marsden profile image

    Rod Marsden 

    4 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

    Ageism continues to be a problem if you are over 50 and want a new job or just a job full stop. The Australian government is trying to change the age of retirement from 65 to 70. If someone is struggling at 57 to find work, what hope have they got at 66 or 70? What's more, a lot of people want to retire at 65 despite the propaganda from current affairs type shows on television showing smiling people in their 70s wanting to work on. It is a fact that at 65 a lot of people who haven't managed to climb the corporate ladder and have been doing menial tasks for 40 or so years of their lives have had enough. Also from 65 onward you may not be in the best of health. Personally I am happy to write until I drop but not to stack shelves with groceries until I drop.

  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR

    Lela 

    4 years ago from Somewhere near the center of Texas

    I've noticed this! I'm not even all that old yet. When we lived in Hawaii, we also experienced 'Haoli' discrimination. It's still weird to me. How can anyone just automatically 'hate' a group of humans is beyond me.

  • Say Yes To Life profile image

    Yoleen Lucas 

    4 years ago from Big Island of Hawaii

    Ageism is one of the last forms of prejudice that is acceptable in society. Check out birthday cards at the local store. What if they were commenting on race instead of age? You'd have lawsuits all over the place!

  • Kathleen Cochran profile image

    Kathleen Cochran 

    5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

    Calling someone older than you by their first name. "Show some respect." I was taught to call anyone reasonably older than me Mr. or Mrs. until they ask me to use their first name, which usually turns out to be harder to do, especially if they've been a teacher to me or a friend of my parents.

  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR

    Lela 

    5 years ago from Somewhere near the center of Texas

    I know! I always say, "I'm the photographer, not the photographee!" I can't stand most photos of myself.

    While I was in Canada, they called me Madame. That means something totally different here in Texas :-)

  • d.william profile image

    d.william 

    5 years ago from Somewhere in the south

    Great hub. And so right on. The only one i don't like (for myself) is to have anyone call me Mr..... I never did like to be called that when i was young and i sure don't like being called that in my old age. I guess, to me it implies an indifference, and i prefer being more of a contemporary.

    PS. you are braver than i am. I have never taken a good picture, and just because other people have to look at my face doesn't mean i should be subjected to it as well. L.O.L. Looking in the mirror is bad enough.

  • carol7777 profile image

    carol stanley 

    5 years ago from Arizona

    I foundthis fascinating.. I have to tell you my favorite comment. "You must have been beautiful when you were younger....So what am I now..chopped liver..Great job and you covered all the hateful comments we hate to get.

  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR

    Lela 

    5 years ago from Somewhere near the center of Texas

    Thank you Dr.D. I've always been told I look young. One day I won't. It's ok.

  • drdspervez profile image

    drdspervez 

    5 years ago from Pakistan

    Dear Austinstar, your picture and you are very beautiful, believe me in your picture you look very young, I did not mean to hurt your feelings. With regards. DR.DURRESHAHWAR PERVEZ

  • Nikkij504gurl profile image

    Nikki Wicked 

    5 years ago from Louisiana

    Haha, "I always want my senior discount." lol that made me laugh. This was a great hub, informative, and funny, and yes I think we should treat our elderly better, there's no respect these days. This generation is full of disappointments and embarrassments. and its only getting worse from here. I do hope more people will wake up and realize the error of their ways and change for the better. not just with elderly people but with themselves, their children and people in general, everyone should follow that golden rule that seems to get left behind in every day situations. and this goes with our planet and nature as well, take care of the earth and she will take care of you. The world would be a much better place if it wasn't for the dirtyness and sinful ways of human beings.

  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR

    Lela 

    5 years ago from Somewhere near the center of Texas

    Why do they ask indeed? First of all, it's hardly any of their business. Just socialize with a fellow human being and let that be the goal.

  • drbj profile image

    drbj and sherry 

    5 years ago from south Florida

    Age is just a number and if we don't care, no one else should either. Love your socially unacceptable questions, Lela (see, I do know who you are), and I have probably heard most of them already since I am older than soil. When one of those rude questions is asked of me, I usually respond, "Why do you ask?" Generally ends the conversation pronto. Voted up, m'dear.

  • Jean Bakula profile image

    Jean Bakula 

    5 years ago from New Jersey

    That's probably true, nobody has manners anymore. Like you said, we get aches and pains, and just have to carry on. Take care.

  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR

    Lela 

    5 years ago from Somewhere near the center of Texas

    Thanks for saying I don't look like I'm in my 50's :-)

    I'm actually 60 now. I'm very fortunate to have good skin (our largest organ). Unfortunately, I do have balance problems, painful joints and some other age health related problems. There are days when I "feel old". There is nothing to do for it except plod on.

    I don't mind if people my own age call me by my first name. But I think children should put forth some sort of effort to be polite to the older generation.

  • Jean Bakula profile image

    Jean Bakula 

    5 years ago from New Jersey

    You brought up a lot of good points, and you don't look like you are in your fifties. I remember being a young girl and pondering what it would feel like to be "old." I feel the same as I ever did, I'm still me. They only thing is I don't waste time on people who don't deserve my time, and I used to be shy, and now just say what's on my mind. I have chronic health issues, but spent my 50th B-day in Jamaica, and the following years so far I've been feeling great. It's only a number. In the area where I live, most people call each other by their first names.

  • Writer Fox profile image

    Writer Fox 

    5 years ago from the wadi near the little river

    It's interesting how different cultures view the items you mention. Where I live, it is almost an insult NOT to address a stranger by their first name, even if they have a prominent position. Also, people normally ask how old you are! Voted up.

  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR

    Lela 

    5 years ago from Somewhere near the center of Texas

    Grumpiness is next to goodliness! It's an art form and old people earn the right to be grumpy as often as they want to. Still, it pays to be nice to all humans.

    Every age group has certain idiosyncrasies! Nobody is perfect, even though teenagers think they have cornered that market.

  • christopheranton profile image

    Christopher Antony Meade 

    5 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

    I hate to say this, but old people can be right obnoxious also. There is nothing more annoying than some old fart/fartess saying "respect me because I am old". Some of the worst manners are also displayed by old people. Having said this, I'm getting pretty ancient myself now and my grumpiness quotient is starting to rise rapidly. Thanks for a great article. Respect to everyone.

  • Rod Marsden profile image

    Rod Marsden 

    5 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

    I would label respect for your fellow humans under common sense. One thing I'm not concerned about is thinning hair since some of the screen's tough guys are thinning and women seem to still go for them anyway.

  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR

    Lela 

    5 years ago from Somewhere near the center of Texas

    And respect for your fellow humans.

  • Rod Marsden profile image

    Rod Marsden 

    5 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

    A lot of this just boils down to common sense.

  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR

    Lela 

    5 years ago from Somewhere near the center of Texas

    Thank you!

  • srsddn profile image

    srsddn 

    5 years ago from Dehra Dun, India

    austinstar, increase in life expediency has brought in new issues related to age. I think our school curriculum should address these issues emphatically so that our children become more sensitive to these issues. Great Hub! Useful and Voted up.

  • drdspervez profile image

    drdspervez 

    5 years ago from Pakistan

    It's a nice hub on age and how a person feels that he/ she has become old. DR.DURRESHAHEAR PERVEZ

  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR

    Lela 

    5 years ago from Somewhere near the center of Texas

    It's like rubbing salt in a wound, isn't it? Yes, we are getting old. How unkind of you to notice.

  • point2make profile image

    point2make 

    5 years ago

    Excellent hub.....you certainly tell it like it is. Being compared to a coworkers' parents is the one that gets me the most. I had a new one the other day. A younger employee asked me if I knew her "grandfather"! I don't mind getting old but the constant reminders, from others, I could do without.

  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR

    Lela 

    5 years ago from Somewhere near the center of Texas

    That photo is three years old, but I haven't changed much. Thanks for saying so, Bob.

    I have to say that I have seen many euthanized seniors from working in hospitals. It's something no one talks about. As far as I know it was only those that were too sick to pull through and the docs just give them a bit too much morphine for their systems to handle. It's probably an ok way to go if you are truly sick and at death's door. Of course, if you are not about to die and you get an "overdose", well, that's a different story.

    My ex was quite a bit older than me when our son was born. He never said he had a problem with people thinking it was his grandson, but he hated everyone thinking I was his daughter.

    I never thought seniors were so ignored until I became one. But now, I too feel invisible. No one wants to play with me anymore. Their loss, harumph.

  • diogenes profile image

    diogenes 

    5 years ago from UK and Mexico

    Ageism is rampant here in Britain as well, where to be old is to be invisible and seniors are not respected as they are in many more civilized cultures. Our NHS, for example, has just abandoned the "Liverpool Pathway," due topublic demonstrations, where many sick seniors in hospital were allowed to die and have their death speeded up with drugs: all legal and encouraged by the government who paid staff heads to put more sufferers on the Path. If you think I'm making this up, go on Wiki and Google and read all about it.

    Nice pic of you, by the way...57 young! I wish I was back at that age!

    Bob

  • Natashalh profile image

    Natasha 

    5 years ago from Hawaii

    Amusing, but pretty true seeming. Age seems sort of irrelevant to me - you shouldn't talk down/be rude to anyone! I've worked in public history a lot and have seen to many people catch a case of the 'foot in mouth' by calling someone a granddaughter or grandson when they weren't! Or assuming someone's significant other is their offspring...that's another awkward one.

  • xstatic profile image

    Jim Higgins 

    5 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

    Great info here! I was 48 when my (now 24 year old) daughter was born. Many times people assumed I was her grandfather, which I always found annoying. Up!

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